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Doing independent study/research with a physics professor in my first year?

  1. Feb 4, 2013 #1
    I met with a REALLY nice professor who is doing theoretical nuclear and particle physics (one of my interests). Im in my first year, but can graduate in three years instead of four because of AP credit (with already having taken AP Physics with Calculus and am currently taking Quantum). So he says he has a project I can work on, relating to Q-Balls and specifically Q-clouds. I mean, Im smart. But right now he has me reading this insane paper he and his masters student worked on and the math and concepts are obviously difficult (Im in multi and diff. eqs. right now). I guess I will mainly be doing computational/numerical analysis for solutions, but if i cant understand the math I am not sure how I can compute solutions. He seems really excited and I am too, I just dont want to let him or myself down. Has anybody had a student in a similar situation that I am in? How did it work out? Any information about what I can expect would be appreciated. He is very patient, but if I just wont understand the concepts it will be a long semester.

    Thank you
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 4, 2013 #2
    If you think you can handle it, go for it. Why not?

    I thought it was funny "I mean, I'm smart".

    Also, go for 4 years. Take some fluff classes your senior year, and see if you can do research/work then. Explore, get to know yourself and your college better. It's more important than you think.
  4. Feb 4, 2013 #3
    Yeah similar situation, but as a 4th year student getting his first taste in research. It is overwhelming at first, especially if you're that early into your education. It gets better. This is a great learning opportunity, I've learned more physics and math actually doing my research than I have in many of my senior courses.

    Do everything you can to understand the paper(s) and explore the references to get the background you need. (wikipedia is a good resource to get initiated in something too, ie: say you have a monte carlo code that models scattering in a gas, where the scatterer's velocity needs to be drawn from a Boltzmann distribution at random via inverse transform sampling. Step 1: learn what inverse transform sampling is and how it works, etc.)
  5. Feb 4, 2013 #4
    Thanks for the advice joqwertyful, Ive just decided that I dont need to worry about it right now and that Ill be able to know better once I get closer to that time! And lets be honest, there arent many physics students who arent smart so maybe it was unnecessary >_<
    Lavabug, its good to know that its hard for everyone! I suppose i just have to fight through it, I know i have the perfect professor for doing that.
    Thanks guys!
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